Obama’s “Safe” Same-Sex Marriage Stance

The President came out in favor of same-sex marriage today during an interview on ABC.

His stance was measured and deliberate. “[A]t a certain point I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

The response from detractors has been immediate. Even the pro-same-sex-marriage Log Cabin Republicans found room to disagree with the President for his timing and motivation.

Obama isn’t going out on a limb when it comes to same-sex marriage. The polls often show most Americans are in favor of it. All studies suggest the issue is certainly trending in that direction at an amazing speed, even when the poll results show the population more evenly divided. When you take out older voters the issue is a no-brainer. As Obama himself said today, while trying hard to portray himself as a man with evolving opinions, this is largely a generational shift:

You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation, that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and, frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.

When it comes down to it, Obama isn’t pandering to the LGBT vote or even to the Left. A majority of voters approve of same-sex marriage. He’s pandering to the white, straight, moderates who make that statistic true.

Of course, in the realm of electoral politics the issue seems to be much more hotly contested than it is with average voters. By announcing his “change in perspective” in the late spring before the November election, Obama disarms his political shift in the political arena by letting it settle into voters minds and benefit from their general attitude of acceptance.

It also reanimates and reinvigorates support for him among moderate whites. The anti-same sex marriage backlash Obama has inspired–a stance that average voters see as steeped in old ways of thinking and hate–makes your moderate pro-same-sex marriage stance feel like a political movement. It makes you into a person with a cause. And that moves you to the ballot box in November.

Look at this screen capture of the top ranking comments from younger voters on Reddit responding to the President:

[If you click on the image it should open larger.]

The lesson here is simple: the Democrats are playing it safe but doing so in a way that makes it seem like they are taking risks based on principle and movement passions.

If only those white, straight, moderate voters thought of Mexicans as more than their unfortunate wage slaves. Maybe then Obama would also stop deporting us.

“Minorities” are the Future Majority

I found this little article about non-white and immigrant voters in Virginia interesting. It doesn’t say much in its content–other than provide a sounding off board for a bunch of trite and recycled political “knowledge” about Latinos, et. al.–but its very publication says an awful lot.

When it comes down to it, Latino and Asian immigrants and their offspring are an unavoidable contingent of the electorate in a growing number of states. Both traditional Democrat and Republican structures are geared toward reaching out to white voters and one of the struggles both parties are grappling with is how to reorganize themselves in small and creative ways to reach the non-white voter. The first step is in taking as fact certain ubiquitous assumptions about these voters and then build from there. In this piece, the oldest assumptions about the Latino electorate are provided as the established contours of the battle ground: Latinos (and others) are socially conservative with liberal tendencies around immigration and race. They can go Dem but they can also go Republican.

In places like California and Texas, where the presence of these “minorities” is as old as the presence of the “majority”–and where demographic change has put us on a course to meaningfully flip those labels in a generation’s time–such infant “debates” as the one from Virginia seem almost silly. With more than 80 years of political activity and growth, Latino voters have acted in ways that would seem to confirm the above generalizations. That is, until the last decade.

We are in a critical moment of political realignment when it comes to the Latino electorate. Two things are emerging: 1) Latino voters are increasingly acting as a unified voting bloc; and 2) they are moving solidly Democratic. One thing drives this trend: xenophobia and racial violence all couched as part of the “immigration debate.”

The national Democratic Party and the national Republican Party are tied for doing nothing much when it comes to federal reforms related to immigration. But one party is clearing making at least failed overtures to the Latino electorate on this count. At the same time the other party is actively courting the contingent within its electorate that represents the equivalent of the White Citizens Council to Latinos today.

The article from Virginia is interesting for the unspoken tension it possesses. Local and regional party organizations are not always in step with their national party when it comes to these stances or their unwillingness to reach out to Latinos. But intentions in this environment get you very little.

In the 1990s, when California Republicans launched into their massive crusade against “illegal immigrants” the Latino population naturalized in huge numbers, registered to vote, and turned our sometimes red and sometimes blue state into a solidly blue chunk of political change. The same is happening in Texas, though to a more measured result. Within 10 years the same will happen to Arizona.

They key here is that Latino voters are not all that up for grabs. The Republicans are losing the contest for their hearts and loyalties because they aren’t even really playing. The Democrats, who struggle to be successful on this front, look like golden gods by comparison.

We are not just “minority” voters. We are increasingly a significant part of a plurality, even in time the majority. The more political “experts” get their heads around that, the more likely they will have a job in 20 years.